Friday, July 13, 2007

Defective Detectives

Tonight marks the return of two of USA's signature series, "Monk" and "Psych."

If I were to think of one adjective to describe the two shows, it would be innocuous. Neither is must-see TV, but each has its own charms where it's not a wasted hour to watch.

"Monk" (USA, 9 p.m.) features Tony Shalhoub in an Emmy-winning role as an obsessive-compulsive detective. While his investigating skills are without peer, he can barely function in society.

"Monk" used to be a sharper show, but the mysteries have become so easy and obvious that each episode features little dramatic arc. As frequent poster Zodin2008 pointed out on yesterday's comments, the killer is usually the highest-profile guest star.

But I keep watching because of the winning performance of Shalhoub, who manages to be pitch perfect every week and gives Monk a certain dignity even when the scripts aren't up to par.

Tonight's episode features Sarah Silverman as an obsessed Monk fan.

I've never been a fan of the companion show "Psych," but fellow TV critic Mo Ryan of the Chicago Tribune loves it, so take from that what you will. Again, the plots of "Psych" are silly and border on the ridiculous, but what saves the show (marginally) is the chemistry between the two buddy leads, Shawn (James Roday) and Gus (Dule Hill), as well as Corbin Bernsen as Shawn's disapproving father.

On tonight's premiere, the guys find themselves competing on an "American Idol" type musical show.

Both of these shows, as well as new series "Burn Notice" on Thursdays, feature a tongue-in-cheek, wink-at-the-camera type tone. USA's shows will never be on par with the stuff that is shown on FX, but you could do a lot worse if you are stuck at home for a Friday.

NO DRIVE FOR FOX: As predicted in this blog space a couple of weeks ago, Fox pulled a "Tru Calling" and yanked the final two episodes of "Drive" for the second time in a week. The last two episodes were originally supposed to air July 4, then got switched to tonight. Fox will likely air the final two episodes on, if anyone still cares.

I don't mind Fox yanking a show for low ratings, but don't screw around with the viewers who did take the time to watch a show by announcing an airing, then yanking it at the eleventh hour. A few years ago, Fox could have aired the final episode of "Tru Calling," but yanked it in favor of a rerun, which I found to be a slap in the face to the cult audience the show had developed.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: I'll always miss Rose Tyler, but I'm digging Martha Jones. She and The Doctor face off against witches tonight on "Doctor Who" (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.), followed by a new episode of "Painkiller Jane."

Until Fox decides to screw over the viewers once more, you can catch a new episode of "Standoff" tonight at 9 p.m. Also, if you missed the pilot of the new series "Greek" on ABC Family, you can catch a re-airing tonight on regular ABC at 9 p.m.

"Hex" (BBC America, Saturday, 9 p.m.) is new this week after taking a break last week.

Miss Marple returns to "Mystery" (PBS, Sunday, 10 p.m.) in a new series of Agatha Christie thrillers.


zodin2008 said...

Well, I won't repeat all of my "Monk" criticisms on today's Blog from yesterday's blog, but needless to say, this show has been rather lifeless for a while.

At some point, Shalhoub's performance is not going to be enough.

I think this show lost its heart and edge when A) Sharona left and was replaced by boring Natalie and B) when they stopped trying to actually surprise the audiences with actual mysteries and instead focused the show entirely around Monk's quirks.

I like "Psych" far better though it actually stars James RODAY.

James Remar is about 20 years old and played one of Samantha's longer romances during "Sex and the City" run.

Phillip Ramati said...

Thanks for the note. Fixed.

Phillip Ramati said...

I forgot to list "State of Mind" (Lifetime, Sun., 9 p.m.) starring Lili Taylor as a screwed-up shrink. The series, which has earned a lot of critical praise, it making its debut this weekend.

Jonathan said...

I think "Monk" got a lot better last season after a bit of a funk, and I think about half the time the mysteries are still up to par. Tony Shaloub is as adept at this kind of role as Peter Falk was back in the day as "Columbo" (One of my all time faves). And I think as in "Columbo," the "whodunit" is less interesting than how Adrian ends up catching the killer. I think some of the better episodes are when we know from the get-go who did it, and get to watch Monk fowl up the killer's plans. Friday night's season premiere was a prime example of how much fun the show can be with Sarah Silverman (Who I usually can't stand) as Monk's number one obsessive fan; all of the knocks on the former episode titles was clever writing. Like Phil says, this will never match up to "The Shield" or "Rescue Me," but as a quirky detective show it's pretty damn good.

"Psych" annoyed me at the beginning and then I thought it got a lot better as the first season went along. I did however think the "American Idol" knock-off was pretty bad, and I hope the rest of the season doesn't follow its lead.

Phillip Ramati said...

Monk seems to be hit or miss, but I think the Columbo analogy you made was pretty good. Murder, She Wrote might also be comparable. But it's still tough for me to enjoy Psych, which borders on the silly on a weekly basis.

I don't expect every TV show to match up to the level set by The Shield or Rescue Me, but life would be so much better if they all did!